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Jewish community draws solace from France's response to killings

Since a gunman killed a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse, French Jews have been bolstered by the universal national revulsion over the attacks.

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Mourners attend a joint funeral in Jerusalem on Wednesday for the victims of Monday's shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

Nir Elias/Reuters

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Rabbi Ariel Messas was up early teaching Torah to children at a Paris synagogue Monday when his phone lit up with text messages of an attack: Four orthodox Jews murdered at a school in Toulouse that he knew. In a book-lined study room off the temple sanctuary, Rabbi Messas says he tuned his iPhone to a Paris Jewish radio station; all three sub-channels carried the news, and set the device on a heavy wooden table to listen: “It was just past belief.”

Messas, whose father was a chief rabbi of Paris, and whose grandfather was chief rabbi in Morocco and then Jerusalem, draws a breath, and says through a well-trimmed beard, “you cannot say how you felt.... it was très, très mal, very bad, and it raised some dark memories of the past in Europe for Jews.”  

The gunman – a 24-year-old Frenchman of Algerian heritage who claims to be part of Al Qaeda – was surrounded by police and died in a firefight this morning. But the question remains whether the shootings are part of a single cell or part of a larger team. “We hope it is just one person, one lone and crazy person … not something, you know, organized,” Messas notes quietly.

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